Students from the University of Durham’s School of Applied Social Sciences will join an equal number of offenders serving time at HMP Durham and HMP Frankland for a 10-week course in criminal justice, covering topics such as whether prison works, the causes of crime, and drugs law.
The initiative is based on the US Inside-Out programme, originally developed in 1997 at Temple University in Philadelphia, which has involved more than 20,000 learners. Durham’s criminology lecturers have completed Inside-Out training inside maximum security prisons in the US.
Durham said that the programme would encourage inmates to “recognise their capacity to make changes in their own lives as well as in the broader society”, and to be “challenged intellectually”, potentially enhancing their education and employment prospects on release.
At the same time, the project enables students to get a new perspective from behind bars on the issues that they are studying.
In the US, Inside-Out has led to the creation of thinktanks within prisons supported by academics, and Fiona Measham, Durham’s professor of criminology, said she hoped that the UK initiative would prove equally successful.
“This is a very powerful programme which will challenge both the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ students and encourage them to open up about their preconceptions of each other,” said Professor Measham.
“We will discuss the labels we attach to people and the feelings and emotions associated with them.”
The first class at HMP Durham is scheduled for 29 October, with classes at Frankland set to follow in January.
Angie Petit, the deputy governor of HMP Durham, added: “This partnership with Durham University will provide a new opportunity for prisoners to study alongside university students to discuss key issues in the criminal justice system.
“This will not only help them build new skills, it will also encourage them to re-examine the impact of their own actions on wider society.”